Nowadays, virtually everyone (including you, your mom, your mom’s mom and, depending on how old you are, probably your mom’s mom’s mom) uses social media. And that’s not just true for individuals and their great grandmothers; it’s just as true for businesses (or races) like yours. While individuals use social media as a way to connect with their friends and family, voice their opinions (hello election year!) and share funny cat videos, races use social media as a super powerful way to connect with their athletes, build brand awareness in the uber competitive market and, ultimately, drive race registrations.
If you’re the only person managing your social media, it’s pretty straightforward - since you’re the one developing the strategy and doing the posting, it’s pretty hard to mess up (and if you do, that’s all on you, yo).
But what if you’re not the person in charge of social media? What if you’ve delegated it to someone else, like a social media manager, or (even scarier) to a whole mess of people on your team? How do you control what’s being put out into the digital-sphere then?
You do what type-A personalities and serious conformists have been doing for centuries: you write a rule book. Or, in this case, a social media guide. A social media guide lays out all of the good stuff - the policies, procedures, do’s and don’ts - for your team, so they know exactly what to do, how to do it and what’s going to happen if they don’t do it.
But what exactly should you include in your social media guidelines?
Professional and Personal Posting Guidelines
First off, you’ll want to include two sets of posting guidelines: one for professional social media use and one for personal social media use.
For the professional guidelines, you’ll want to include what is and isn’t kosher when posting on behalf of your race. Now, this will definitely vary depending on your brand, but it could include guidelines like “When using links in social media posts, always use bit.ly links” or “Never use the F word on our social media channels… ever”.
Now, this gets a wee bit trickier when it comes to personal social media guidelines for your team: on the one hand, your employees’ personal social media is for their personal lives, and who are you to tell me how to live my life?! But on the flip side of the coin, as employees, they’re also an extension of your race and what they put out on their personal social media profiles can (and will) reflect back on you. Again, your guidelines for employee personal social media use is going to depend on your brand, but as a rule of thumb you’re probably going to want to put a kabosh on anything that’s going to hurt your reputation (drunk party pics from Cancun) or potentially upset your athletes (hateful political rants).
If you want to keep things simple, you can also just require that they turn their social media preferences to “private”; that way, if an athlete or a potential sponsor goes looking to dig up some dirt on your team members, they’ll immediately get shut down.
Voice and Tone
Another thing you’ll want to include in your social media guide is suggestions for your race’s voice and tone. It’s très important to have a strong and consistent brand voice across all of your social media channels, and when you have multiple team members posting, you want to make sure everybody’s on the same page and clear on your voice so you don’t resemble the social media version of The United States of Tara.
Include a clear explanation of who you are as a race on social media and how your team should post. Are you guys jokesters or are you going for a more buttoned up approach? Do you keep things conversational? Are you more salesy? Include a link to your online race registration in every post? Should they give thorough, detailed answers to questions or keep it short and to the point?
Setting an overall voice and tone for your race - and making sure that your entire team is on board with it - will establish a consistent social media experience for your athletes, regardless of which team member is doing the posting.
Profiles and Passwords
This might be a serious DUH section, but at the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, you’re also going to want to include a listing of all your social media profiles and the login information for each; that way, your team doesn’t have to go searching through an abyss of files to find what they’re looking for.
How To Reply to Athletes
This is probably the single most important part of your social media guide: you need, need, NEED to include step-by-step instructions for your team on how to talk to athletes posting on your social media profiles.
Include everything from how to answer athlete FAQs (I’d even go as far as including the exact copy you want them to use), how to handle a question that they don’t know the answer to and how quickly every athlete comment needs to be responded to.
But the numero uno most important thing to break down for your team is how to deal with negative comments or feedback from athletes. Because, trust me, there will come a time when an athlete is mad about an event cancellation or long lines at bib assignment and all hell breaks loose on your Facebook page. And when that time comes, it’s imperative you have a system in place so your team knows exactly what to do to talk your athletes down.
Every race is different, but a word to the wise: avoid just flat out deleting negative comments; all it does is get people more keyed up. Figure out a system for responding to negative comments that will work for you and your athletes.
Now it’s time to go out and actually write your social media guide. Once you get it written, your team will be a lean, mean social media machine. If you need more ideas for writing your race social media guide, you can check out this database of corporate social media guides for some extra inspiration.